Peter Tosh (left) on the Bush Doctor tour in 1978, with Al Anderson (guitar) and Robbie Shakespeare (bass)
|Birth name||Winston Hubert McIntosh|
|Also known as||Stepping Razor|
19 October 1944|
Grange Hill, Jamaica
|Died||11 September 1987
|Genres||Reggae, ska, rocksteady, R&B|
|Instruments||Guitar, vocals, keyboards, melodica, percussions|
|Years active||1961 - 1987|
|Associated acts||The Wailers, Bob Marley|
|Gibson Les Paul Doublecut Special|
Peter Tosh, OM (born Winston Hubert McIntosh, 19 October 1944 – 11 September 1987) was a Jamaican reggae musician who was a core member of the band The Wailers (1963–1974), and who afterwards had a successful solo career as well as being a promoter of Rastafari.
Peter Tosh was born in Grange Hill, Jamaica, and was raised by his aunt. He began to sing and learn guitar at an early age, inspired by American radio stations. After a notable career with The Wailers and as a solo musician, he was murdered in his home during a robbery.
Early music and with The Wailers
When McIntosh was fifteen, his aunt died and he moved to Trench Town in Kingston, Jamaica. He first picked up a guitar by watching a man in the country play a song that captivated him. He watched the man play the same song for half a day, memorizing everything his fingers were doing. He then picked up the guitar and played the song back to the man. The man then asked McIntosh who had taught him to play; McIntosh told him that he had. During the early 1960s Tosh met Robert Nesta Marley (Bob Marley) and Neville O'Reilly Livingston (Bunny Wailer) and went to vocal teacher, Joe Higgs, who gave out free vocal lessons to young people, in hopes to form a new band. He then changed his name to become Peter Tosh and the trio started singing together in 1962. Higgs taught the trio to harmonize and while developing their music, they would often play on the street corners of Trenchtown. In 1964, he helped organize the band The Wailing Wailers, with Junior Braithwaite, a falsetto singer, and backup singers Beverley Kelso and Cherry Smith. Initially, Tosh was the only one in the group who could play musical instruments. According to Bunny Wailer, Tosh was critical to the band because he was a self-taught guitarist and keyboardist, and thus became an inspiration for the other band members to learn to play. The Wailing Wailers had a major ska hit with their first single, "Simmer Down", and recorded several more successful singles before Braithwaite, Kelso and Smith left the band in late 1965. Marley spent much of 1966 in Delaware in the United States of America with his mother, Cedella (Malcolm) Marley-Booker and for a brief time was working at a nearby Chrysler factory. He then returned to Jamaica in early 1967 with a renewed interest in music and a new spirituality. Tosh and Bunny were already Rastafarians when Marley returned from the U.S., and the three became very involved with the Rastafari faith. Soon afterwards, they renamed the musical group The Wailers. Tosh would explain later that they chose the name Wailers because to "wail" means to mourn or to, as he put it, "...express one's feelings vocally". He also claims that he was the beginning of the group, and that it was he who first taught Bob Marley the guitar. The latter claim may very well be true, for according to Bunny Wailer, the early wailers learned to play instruments from Tosh. Rejecting the up-tempo dance of ska, the band slowed their music to a rocksteady pace, and infused their lyrics with political and social messages inspired by their new-found faith. The Wailers composed several songs for the American-born singer Johnny Nash before teaming with producer Lee Perry to record some of the earliest well-known reggae songs, including "Soul Rebel", "Duppy Conqueror", and "Small Axe". The collaboration had given birth to reggae music and later, bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett and his brother, drummer Carlton Barrett would join the group in 1970. The band signed a recording contract with Chris Blackwell and Island Records company and released their debut, Catch a Fire, in 1973, following it with Burnin' the same year. The Wailers had moved from many producers after 1970 and there were instances where producers would record rehearsal sessions that Tosh did and release them in England under the name "Peter Touch".
In 1973, Tosh was driving home with his girlfriend Evonne when his car was hit by another car driving on the wrong side of the road. The accident killed Evonne and severely fractured Tosh's skull. He survived, but became more difficult to deal with. After Island Records president Chris Blackwell refused to issue his solo album in 1974, Tosh and Bunny Wailer left the Wailers, citing the unfair treatment they received from Blackwell, to whom Tosh often referred with a derogatory play on Blackwell's surname, 'Whiteworst'. Tosh had written many of the Wailers' hit songs such as "Get Up, Stand Up", "400 Years", and "No Sympathy".
Tosh began recording and released his solo debut, Legalize It, in 1976 with CBS Records company. The title track soon became popular among endorsers of marijuana legalization, reggae music lovers and Rastafarians all over the world, and was a favourite at Tosh's concerts. His second album Equal Rights followed in 1977.
Tosh organized a backing band, Word, Sound and Power, who were to accompany him on tour for the next few years, and many of whom performed on his albums of this period. In 1978 Rolling Stones Records contracted with Tosh, and the album Bush Doctor was released, introducing Tosh to a larger audience. The single from the album, a cover version of The Temptations song "Don't Look Back", performed as a duet with Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, made Tosh one of the best-known reggae artists.
During Bob Marley's free One Love Peace Concert of 1978, Tosh lit a marijuana spliff and lectured about legalizing cannabis, lambasting attending dignitaries Michael Manley and Edward Seaga for their failure to enact such legislation. Several months later he was apprehended by police as he left Skateland dance hall in Kingston and was beaten severely while in police custody.
Mystic Man (1979), and Wanted Dread and Alive (1981) followed, released on the Rolling Stones' own record label. Tosh tried to gain some mainstream success while keeping his militant views, but was largely unsuccessful, especially compared to Marley's achievements. That same year, Tosh appeared in the Rolling Stones' video Waiting on a Friend.
In 1984, after the release of 1983's album Mama Africa, Tosh went into self-imposed exile, seeking the spiritual advice of traditional medicine men in Africa, and trying to free himself from recording agreements that distributed his records in South Africa. Tosh had been at odds for several years with his label, EMI, over a perceived lack of promotion for his music.
Tosh also participated in the international opposition to South African apartheid by appearing at Anti-Apartheid concerts and by conveying his opinion in various songs like "Apartheid" (1977, re-recorded 1987), "Equal Rights" (1977), "Fight On" (1979), and "Not Gonna Give It Up" (1983). In 1991 Stepping Razor - Red X was released, a documentary film by Nicholas Campbell, produced by Wayne Jobson and based upon a series of spoken-word recordings of Tosh himself, which chronicled the story of the artist's life, music and untimely death. In 1987, Peter Tosh seemed to be having a career revival. He was awarded a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Performance in 1987 for No Nuclear War, his last record.
At some point after his departure from the Wailers, Tosh developed an interest in unicycles; he became a unicycle rider, being able to ride forwards and backwards and hop. He often amused his audiences by riding onto the stage on his unicycle for his shows. His teacher for unicycling was Kelly Carrigan. They rode side by side for years.
On 11 September 1987, just after Tosh had returned to his home in Jamaica, a three-man gang came to his house demanding money. Tosh replied that he did not have any with him but the gang did not believe him. They stayed at his residence for several hours and tortured him in an attempt to extort money from Tosh. During this time, Tosh's associates came to his house to greet him because of his return to Jamaica. As people arrived, the gunmen became more and more frustrated, especially the chief thug, Dennis "Leppo" Lobban, a man whom Tosh had previously befriended and tried to help find work after a long jail sentence. Tosh said he did not have any money in the house, after which Lobban put a gun to Tosh's head and shot once, killing him. The other gunmen began shooting, wounding several other people and also killing disc jockeys Doc Brown and Jeff "Free I" Dixon. Leppo surrendered to the authorities. He was sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted in 1995 and he remains in jail. The other two gunmen were never identified by name.
In 1983, at the Los Angeles stop on Tosh's Mama Africa tour, a local musician named Bruno Coon went to the hotel at which Tosh was staying, claiming to have a gift for him. The gift was a custom-built guitar in the shape of an M16 rifle. Tosh accepted the gift personally. The guitar was subsequently lost by the airlines when the tour went to Europe but was recovered when Tosh's public relations agent placed an article about its loss in Der Spiegel. Tosh went on to perform on stage with the guitar.
In 2006, it was announced by the promoters of the Flashpoint Film Festival that the guitar would be auctioned on eBay by Tosh's common-law wife Andrea "Marlene" Brown. Tosh's sons prevented the sale, claiming ownership of the guitar. In 2011, Andrew Tosh, Peter's son, said that the guitar was in the custody of a close friend, awaiting the opening of a museum dedicated to Peter Tosh.
|Year||Album details||Peak chart positions|
|1981||Wanted Dread And Alive
|1987||No Nuclear War
|"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
- Captured Live (1984)
- Live at the One Love Peace Concert (2000)
- Live & Dangerous: Boston 1976 (2001)
- Live At The Jamaica World Music Festival 1982 (2002)
- Complete Captured Live (2004)
Listed are compilations containing material previously unreleased outside of Jamaica.
- The Toughest (Heartbeat) (1996)
- Honorary Citizen (1997)
- Scrolls Of The Prophet: The Best of Peter Tosh (1999)
- Arise Black Man (1999)
- Black Dignity (Early Works Of The Stepping Razor) (2001)
- I Am That I Am (2001)
- The Best Of Peter Tosh 1978-1987 (2003)
- Can't Blame The Youth (2004)
- Black Dignity (JAD) (2004)
- Talking Revolution (2005)
- The Ultimate Peter Tosh Experience (2009)
- Negril (Eric Gale, 1975)
- Rastafari Dub (Ras Michael & The Sons of Negus, 1975)
- Blackheart Man (Bunny Wailer, 1976)
- Protest, (Bunny Wailer, 1977)
- Word Sound and Power (Chris Hinze, 1980)
- Liner notes to album Burnin'
- "Peter Tosh". Retrieved 11 October 2011.
- Romer, Megan. "Peter Tosh". Retrieved 11 October 2011.
- "Peter Tosh: Reclaiming a Wailer". Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- Jelly-Schapiro, Joshua (11 June 2012). "Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Island Records". Los Angeles Review of Books.
- Personal Interview with Doug Wendt, 17 August 1983.
- "Stepping Razor: Red X (1993)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
- Vollmer, Lesley. "Cinematic Interpretation of "Stepping Razor Red X": the Peter Tosh Story". The Dread Library. University of Vermont. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
- "Peter Tosh, Reggae's Rebel". Nytimes.com. 27 September 1987. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- Michael E. Veal, Dub: soundscapes and shattered songs in Jamaican reggae (Wesleyan University Press, 2007), p. 15
- Babylon by Bike.
- Johnny B. Goode video.
- Hibbert, Sybil E. (22 April 2012). "The night Peter Tosh was killed". Jamaica Observer. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
- Henry, Balford (17 September 2004). "Ivan impacts on celebrations for Peter Tosh". Jamaica Observer. Archived from the original on 2012-12-13. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
- Bonitto, Brian (2012) "Tosh gets OM", Jamaica Observer, 7 August 2012, retrieved 7 August 2012
- Forbes, Copeland (Friday, 24 November 2006). "M-16 guitar came in hot". Jamaica Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica). Archived from the original on 2008-05-03. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
- Forbes, Copeland (Sunday, 26 November 2006). "Guitar lost, guitar found, guitar almost gone". Jamaica Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica). Archived from the original on 2008-05-03. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
- Batson-Savage, Tanya (Thursday, 16 November 2006). "Icon for sale". Jamaica Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica). Archived from the original on 2008-05-03. Retrieved 2011-12-30. "The guitar was gained by one of the festival's founders, Paul Bucknor, from the late legend's common-law wife, Andrea (Marlene) Brown. Ms. Brown told Bucknor that she, in fact, owned the M16 guitar, which had been locked away in a closet in the United States for the last 19 years."
- Hepburn, Monique (Thursday, 23 November 2006). "Impending auction of Tosh's M-16 guitar sparks controversy". Jamaica Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica). Archived from the original on 2008-05-03. Retrieved 2011-12-30. "Jawara McIntosh, 26, the youngest son of the deceased artiste, told The Gleaner yesterday that the guitar belongs to the Tosh estate and it is his intention to recover items (including the guitar) that were previously thought lost."
- Jackson, Steven (Friday, 1 April 2011). "Finding Tosh’s M16". Jamaica Observer (Kingston, Jamaica). p. 27. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
- "Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus - Rastafari Dub (Vinyl, LP) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2012-04-27.
- Peter Tosh on Allmusic
- Peter Tosh – Jamaicapage.com Feature
- The Wailers News
- VitalSpot – Peter Tosh